5 Less Expensive Wireless Alternatives to AirPods

2 minute read
| Dr. Mac's Rants & Raves

Last week I said I thought AirPods were too expensive. So, if you’re looking for a decent-sounding, comfortable wireless headsets to use primarily with a single Apple device—an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Mac—I’ve tried many models that will serve your needs and cost you less than AirPods.

AirPods Alternatives

Here’s the deal: If you’re going to use your headphones with a single (Apple) device, you pair the headphones with the device and the device and headphones remember each other evermore (or until they forget each other). This is good—it means the headphones connect to the device automatically when you power up the headphones.

Now, if you want to use those same headphones with another (Apple) device, you usually have to first unpair (disconnect) them from the first device, and then pair them with the second.

And that’s the issue. Switching from one Apple device to the other requires a trip to either the Settings app (iOS) or the Bluetooth menu bar item (macOS) to disconnect from the one and connect to the other. It’s not totally odious but it does take a few extra seconds every time.

AirPods don’t require a disconnect/connect sequence to use them with another Apple device. Instead, just select them as the sound source in either Control Center (on iOS), or the Bluetooth menu bar item (on macOS). The best part is, you don’t ever have to pair the AirPods with your other Apple devices—as soon as you pair them with one device, they’re paired automatically with all your other compatible Apple devices.

Some Less Expensive (than AirPods) Wireless Headphone Options

That’s cool. But, if you’re only going to use your earphones with a single device, you can probably find comfortable, decent-sounding wireless headphones for less than $159. If that describes you, here are a few wireless headsets I’ve tested that may better suit your needs and cost you less:

Decibullz Custom Fit Bluetooth Wireless Earphones ($119) are ideal for anyone with comfort issues with other in-ear buds. They’re the only ones I know that include custom-molded earpieces you heat with warm water and shape to fit your ears precisely. They’re very comfortable and sound better and block out ambient sound better than some other similarly priced options.

Decibullz Custom Fit Bluetooth Wireless Earphones are great for otherwise hard-to-fit ears.

Decibullz Custom Fit Bluetooth Wireless Earphones are great for otherwise hard-to-fit ears.

Elux ($99.95) are handsome, comfortable, nice-sounding over-the-ear headphones from a new company (at least to me) on the scene called Specter Wireless. I also liked their Efitz ($95.95), an in-ear model with ear hooks for those with a more athletic lifestyle.

ELUX by Specter Wireless look good; sound good; and are quite comfortable.

ELUX by Specter Wireless look good; sound good; and are quite comfortable.

EFITZ by Specter Wireless stay put; sound good; and are comfortable as well.

EFITZ by Specter Wireless stay put; sound good; and are comfortable as well.

For those on even tighter budgets I recommend Kinivo’s BTH240 ($24.95) and the discontinued BlueAnt Pump 2 HD ($19.99), which I’ve mentioned before.

The BlueAnt Pump HD (now discontinued) are a steal at $19.99.

The BlueAnt Pump HD (now discontinued) are a steal at $19.99.

Kinivo BTH240 are comfortable, sound pretty good, and are a steal at $24.99,

The Kinivo is a decent set of over-the-ear headphones with remote controls at a remarkably low price; the discontinued (but still available) BlueAnt Pump HD are still my go-to headphones for any strenuous activity.

And that’s all he wrote…


AirPods. Apple, Inc. $159. Apple

Decibullz Custom Fit Bluetooth Wireless Earphones. Decibullz. $119.  (Amazon $119)

Elux. Specter Wireless. $99.95.

Efitz. Specter Wireless. $95.95.

BTH240. Kinivo. $24.95. www.kinivo.com (Amazon $24.95)

BlueAnt Pump 2 HD (discontinued model). BlueAnt. $19.99 (Amazon $19.99)

3 Comments Add a comment

  1. Hagen

    I thought the major reason to get the AirPods was to get rid of ALL of the wires. These are good headsets, but every one of them has a wire (or a headband) that runs between the two ears. Any good alternatives to the AirPods that are completely wireless?

  2. Bob LeVitus

    Hagen: The only ones I tried with no wire were the Rowkin Mini (www.rowkin.com; $99). Here’s what I wrote about them last year:

    Billed as, “the world’s smallest Bluetooth stereo earbuds.” They’re well-made and include an induction-charging battery case with a USB port for charging other devices. The most fatal of their flaws, at least for me, is their inability to remain in my ears. One of ‘em popped out while walking and nearly disappeared down a drain; another time one fell out and I almost stepped on it.

    I tried all three included sizes of ear tips, but none fit just right. And there were other flaws including occasional sound dropouts in one ear or the other and a mediocre (at best) microphone.

    They may be just right if your ears are just the right shape, but they weren’t just right for me.

  3. thanatopsis

    I scoffed at the AirPods when they first came out. But then I got the Apple Watch and love it. I thought they would go well together, and they do.
    You could literally go streaking with nothing but the Apple Watch and AirPods and have music to listen to. You might want to wear sneakers, though. I have some $10 silicon sleeves that make them fit in my ear like Bose Sport headphones. They never fall out and are even more comfortable than usual. I can barely tell I’m wearing them. I accidentally took a shower with them once. Luckily it didn’t ruin them.
    Personally I can’t stand wired cords that rub on the back of my neck. It always feels like a bug is crawling on me. Head straps are a little better, but the freedom that the AirPods offer more than make up for their typical Apple price and audio quality.
    I live in a quiet apartment building and stay up very late. I can run around, cook, watch movies on my video projector and get up to get a snack without having to take off the headphones. I also like the way the AirPods magically switch to my phone or computer, whatever I am currently using.
    That being said, these are some nice alternative wireless headphones listed here. Wireless can be handy. Never again will I drag a frying pan onto the floor with my headphone cable or get them stuck in the oven door while cooking late at night. You can dance around and do cartwheels without worrying about getting caught in a cord. Wireless is great.

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